The Baltimore Ravens remain in control of their own destiny in the AFC North and the race for a first-round bye, despite an embarrassing 34-14 loss last Sunday at San Diego.
The beleaguered Cleveland Browns (4-10) will enter M&T Bank Stadium on Saturday losers of four straight, and this figures to be a favorable matchup for the Ravens, who look to stay on track for the division crown and the No. 2 seed in the AFC.
The Ravens (10-4) have put themselves in prime position having swept division rival Pittsburgh and having beat the Houston Texans on Oct. 16, giving them a leg up on those 10-4 teams.
Baltimore, winners of a franchise record nine in a row at home, dating back to December 2010, appear to have a good opportunity of extending that streak to 10 against Cleveland. The Ravens have won a dominating seven straight over the Browns, which is tied for the longest win streak against any opponent in team history.
Baltimore’s latest win over Cleveland came Dec. 4 as running back Ray Rice carried the ball for a career-high 204 yards on 29 rushes. Also, veteran Ricky Williams added a season-high 76 yards rushing as the Ravens amassed 290 yards rushing on a franchise record 55 carries.
Since their last meeting with Baltimore, Cleveland has made adjustments with their run defense. Following the 24-10 defeat to the Ravens, the Browns followed up their poor performance by allowing Pittsburgh to rush for 147 yards on the ground. Last week, Cleveland was even better, as they yielded just 74 yards on the ground in against the Arizona Cardinals.
With a so-so 3-4 road record, winning this game will prove to be vital for Baltimore because following this game, the Ravens will head out to Cincinnati to play a Bengals team that very well could be playing for the conference’s final wildcard spot Week 17.
What you should know:
Terrell Suggs continues to anchor the Ravens defense. In the first meeting between these two teams, Suggs chased down Browns quarterback Colt McCoy for one of his career-best 13 sacks. But this week Suggs will be chasing down Cleveland backup Seneca Wallace, not McCoy.
McCoy continues to battle the lingering effects of a concussion he suffered due to an illegal helmet-to-helmet hit he suffered courtesy of Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison, in the team’s 14-3 defeat on Dec. 8.
With McCoy having been ruled out for Saturday, Wallace is expected to start for the second straight week after he threw for 226 yards and a touchdown versus the Cardinals. His 76-yard touchdown pass to rookie wide receiver Greg Little gave the Browns a 17-7 third-quarter lead, but they couldn’t make it stick, as the Browns would go on to drop the game 20-17 in overtime.
Wallace’s one career start against the Ravens came in the Browns’ most recent visit to Baltimore on Sept. 26, 2010. In that game, Wallace threw for 141 yards and a touchdown in a 24-17 loss, while counterpart Joe Flacco passed for three scores.
Flacco has been solid against the Browns over the past six matchups, tossing eight touchdowns compared to just one interception.
If the Browns have any glimmer of hope in Saturday’s game, running back Peyton Hillis will need to come up big. In his fourth game since returning from an injured hamstring, Hillis ran for a season-best 99 yards and a touchdown last week. Last season against the Ravens vaunted run defense, Hillis ran for a then-career high 144 yards last September. However, over the past two matchups he’s been held to a meager 80 yards combined.
Kickoff is set for 1 P.M./EST Saturday with Spero Dedes and Rich Gannon getting the call for CBS.